Are the Bucs lowering expectations for free agency?
I haven’t quite mastered the trick of reading minds, something that would make being a reporter infinitely easier.
But reading between lines, that’s different.
We do that all the time, and here goes the latest attempt: When you listen to Bucs general manager Mark Dominik talk about free agency, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that he’s lowering expectations of what the team will do during the signing period.
One year after the Bucs made the biggest free-agent splash in club history, Dominik is being quite careful to address the Bucs’ 2013 free-agency plans in a measured and cautious fashion.
Take Dominik’s comments last week, which were relayed by our Rick Stroud from the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
“It’s not the same overall (free-agent) class there was last year,” Dominik said. “Although there are some really talented players in free agency, there are 31 other clubs that may want to have them and one that already has them, so it’s going to be difficult. But we want to be positioned in case something makes sense.”
That doesn’t sound like much of a commitment. Compare that to the strong message Dominik sent to the fan base last year, when he said in January 2012, “We understand we're not a finished product. I know that there's things we need to address on this team and I know that we'll do it in all capacities. We're going to do it in free agency. I don't want people to be worried that we're not going to spend in free agency. We'll be involved.”
That came to fruition with the Bucs signing three players – Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright – to more than $130 million in contracts on the first day of free agency.
This isn’t a case of reading too much into a single comment. Last week wasn’t the first time Dominik said something along the same lines. To that end, his history of being largely forthcoming about free-agency intentions is something to consider here.
In addition to Dominik’s own words, there are other reasons for reaching this conclusion, like conversations with NFL sources who shall remain nameless.
Don’t construe any of what you read here as criticism. Dominik has good reasons for being cautious in free agency, which he clearly outlined in the same interview.
“With the way the (salary) cap is moving slowly, because we have room, we want to make sure we utilize it to its best potential,” he said. “Whatever that is and however long it takes to be that way. As you see in this league, there are a lot of teams that are over the cap and in tough situations going into this free agency. So, we don’t want to get in that position. We’re going to be very smart with how we use the actual salary cap we have currently and the amount going forward.”
Could this all be an elaborate smokescreen? Sure. But I really don’t think so. You can expect the Bucs to make some notable moves in free agency because they pretty much need the help. But that hardly means there are blockbuster moves on the horizon.
If Dominik is to be believed, you don’t have to be a mind-reader to see that.